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Blockbuster Europa League night: Aubameyang’s 2 goals brought Arsenal into the last 16 round

Arsenal captain and man of the match Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal captain and man of the match Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring his first goal with an elegant far-post shot

Arsenal’s crucial match which they could not afford to lose made many fans experience the full range of emotions this evening. Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis saw the real blockbuster scenario with ups and downs.

It started briskly, with the Londoners creating chances, coming close to goal time after time. Benfica tried to counter, but without any success. 

And in the middle of the first half the Gunners found their moment: the young star Bukayo Saka slid a reverse pass through, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran on to it and lifted a delightful finish over Benfica goalkeeper Helton Leite. 

A quick VAR check confirmed Aubameyang’s run was well-timed. Arsenal took a deserved lead.

One of the most dangerous moments for the goal of Bernd Leno was Jan Vertonghen`s header after free-kick, he missed it, but the threat was real as Luiz hasn’t managed to stop Benfica`s center-back. The shot was inaccurate.

Still, at the end of the first half, Diogo Goncalves converted a brilliant free-kick from 25 yards, it came from a needless foul from Dani Ceballos. Very costly for the London side. 2-2 is the aggregate score before the start of the second half.

Leno had no chances to save after Diogo`s magnificent shot right  into the ‘spider`s web’

That was Benfica’s first goal direct from a free-kick in the Europa League since February 2014.

The teams went to the brake and, probably, Mikel Arteta made it clear to his team what needed to be done, but something went wrong…

Disaster for Arsenal came from their own corner. During the game, Helton Leite quickly launched the ball downfield and Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos, whose fault was the previous goal, produced a shocking attempt at a header back as last man, Rafa Silva raced on to it in a moment, taking a touch past Bernd Leno and just literally walked the ball into the net. 

Rafa celebrating the goal which granted them a promotion to the next stage even in case of draw result

It was a real disaster for the London side as they needed to score two or they are out.

And the goal came out of nowhere!

Substitute Willian made an instant impact as he was free down the left wing, he pulled the ball back to Kieran Tierney and he took just a few touches to set himself before arrowing a mighty shot into the corner. 

Benfica was still heading through as it stands though, on the away goals rule.

And then came the real showdown..

With 85 minutes gone, Benfica seemed to be holding on well and were just a few minutes away from victory.

But suddenly, the young talent, Arsenal’s academy player Bakayo Saka made a flawless cross from the right flank straight to his captain’s head. Piere just headed it right into the net.

The fans and players froze waiting for the VAR referee’s decision. And the goal was awarded!

They needed a goal. They have got a goal which won the whole 2-leg clash. The real fairy-tale script. 

Lads of Jorge Jesus couldn’t change that situation even with 4 minutes of added time. Match ended with an aggregate score of 4-3, Arsenal have done it the hard way and advanced to the next tournament stage.

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang talking after the match: 

“Everyone is happy tonight. This is what gives me power every day, take errors from the past and transform to strength. The team showed a lot of character and we deserved the win. It was a hard game. What we showed tonight will be an example for the future.”

  • Since the start of last season, Bukayo Saka has provided more assists in all competitions than any other Arsenal player. Moreover, since the start of last season, no player has provided more assists in the UEFA Europa League than Bukayo Saka.
  • Kieran Tierney’s goal was his first shot on target for Arsenal in the UEL